Google Disavow Tool Mistakes Explained

The disavow tool has been described by most people as a very mysterious tool.  It has gotten a ton of press within the first half of 2013 and is loved and hated by many.

On June 10th, 2013 the Google Webmaster Help YouTube Channel released a video by Matt Cutts that explaind some of the common mistakes made by webmasters trying to disavow.

So let’s get right to the point here, common Google disavow tool mistakes:

1. Using an improper file format.  Google is receiving a ton of crazy file formats such as Word (.doc), Excel (.xls) and a number of different file formats that are not compatible with Google’s parser.  Google only accepts .txt files int he disavow tool and anything else could null your submission.  If you want to be sure your file is a .txt file, right click on the file and click “properties.” It should say “.txt” within the file properties window.

disavow file type

Disavow file type should always be TXT


2. Don’t stress the details (seriously).  Instead of combing through your link portfolio with a fine tooth comb, in most cases you can just list the domain that you need to disavow.  There are scenarios where you don’t want to do this.  For instance, on some domains you might have a few good links and a few bad links.  While this is rare, in this case you should list each URL in your text file one per line.

3. Use the correct syntax within your disavow TXT file.  You wouldn’t try to eat your laptop, so don’t feed Google things it can’t consume. Many people are using all kinds of crazy syntax such as domain: and other variations.  The only correct syntax is:


Anything else will either be improperly processed, not processed, or sent back.

disavow tool mistakes

Furthermore, Google is getting a TON of files with actual context relating to the request within the file itself.  Do not do this.  This file is meant to be processed by a machine parser, not a human.  If you want to explain yourself, do it within the reconsideration request, not the disavow file.

4. Disavow tool will not solve all of your problems.  That’s right, it is a last resort.  Clean up your links.  Do everything in your power to clean up all of your links, then and only then should you attempt to disavow.

If you still have questions, please feel free to send them our way or leave them in the comments below.  We’ll get back to you within a few hours with a solid plan of attack.

Thanks for reading!

Patrick Coombe
Patrick Coombe is the founder and CEO of Elite Strategies Llc. Patrick takes a hands on approach to managing Elite Strategies and loves to get involved with technical projects relating to clients inbound marketing needs.
Patrick Coombe
Patrick Coombe
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